This is a big week for Arizona families. First, children in failing schools and children with special needs, along with children from active-duty military families and adopted children have until Wednesday to apply for an education savings account. These accounts, only available in Arizona, have helped more than 300 children in the past two years find better education options than what their zip code assigned them to, including tutoring services, online classes, and private schools.
Jeff and Rebecca Locke’s daughter, Kasey, is using an account for speech therapy services at a school that specializes in helping children diagnosed with autism. “It’s opened a lot of doors,” Jeff says. “It’s been a huge success for us.”
Before using an account, Kasey struggled with anxiety issues and following directions, but now Jeff says she is excited to get in the car and go to school every day.
A second reason families should be excited this week is because lawmakers still have time to consider SB 1363. This bill would allow children entering kindergarten and assigned to a failing school to apply for an education savings account immediately, instead of having to attend the failing school for one year before applying. Children assigned to a “D” or “F” school would get the chance at a great education right away.
The bill would also increase the amount of each savings account, while still saving taxpayers money over traditional schools. The accounts only use 90 percent of a child’s portion of the school funding formula, allowing the state to save money with each account.
Education savings accounts are distinctly different from school vouchers. Vouchers allow families to choose a private school for their child, but educations savings accounts can be used for college expenses, therapy services, textbooks, and a variety of other education expenses.
These accounts are the most innovative, flexible education solution in the U.S. Just ask Jeff and Rebecca, who say that when education savings accounts came along, “It was almost too good to be true. So far, it’s just been great.”
Goldwater Institute: Education Savings Accounts: Questions and Answers
Goldwater Institute: A Path to Give All Children an Effective Education and Prepare Them for Life
Arizona Department of Education: Empowerment Scholarship Accounts